Defending champion NU overpowers UE, FEU whips EAC in SSL

Arah Panique NU Lady Bulldogs SSL

NU’s Arah Panique.–SSL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — National University jumpstarted its title-retention bid with a dominant 25-15, 25-19, 25-15 win over new-look University of the East in the Shakey’s Super League (SSL) Collegiate Pre-Season Championship Season 2 on Saturday at Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.

The Lady Bulldogs were too much for the Lady Red Warriors from the starters, bannered by Bella Belen, Alyssa Solomon, and Vangie Alinsug, to their second unit led by rookie Arah Panique and returning Sheena Toring, who had a partial ACL tear in her left knee during the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball finals but didn’t need surgery.

Buoyed by their experience of representing the Philippine women’s volleyball team in its last three international competitions, Alinsug led the way with 11 points to win their first assignment in Pool A before facing San Sebastian College (1-0) on Sunday at 5 p.m.

“Our international experience had a huge impact on our game. We’re lucky to represent the country since not everyone gets that kind of opportunity. We learned a lot inside and outside the court,” said Alinsug in Filipino. “We remained positive and gave our 100 percent the whole game.”

Panique, who played for runner-up Naga College Foundation in the SSL Girls Volleyball Invitational League, made a rousing debut for NU, scoring eight of her 11 points in the second set.

Reigning conference MVP Solomon delivered eight points in limited action, while Belen also played sparingly with five points. Team captain Erin Pangilinan chipped in seven markers, while Toring added five markers all from the second set to give NU coach Norman Miguel a winning return.

“It’s good to be back after the pandemic. The trust is still there but this is a bigger challenge,” said Miguel. “I’m happy with the win. We are setting higher expectations but (it’s okay) since it’s our first game and we’re playing under the all-to-play format so we’re trying to mix and match the rotation. At least we get to see the things that we need to work on as we prepare for the UAAP.”

NU Lady Bulldogs SSL

NU Lady Bulldogs.–SSL PHOTO

Casiey Dongallo, who unleashed 20 points in her SSL debut last week, was limited to just nine as no Lady Red Warrior scored in double figures. UE droped to 1-1 in Pool A.

Meanwhile, Far Eastern University inched closer to a quarterfinal berth with a 2-0 record after giving Emilio Aguinaldo College a rude welcome in Pool D, 25-6, 25-15, 25-12.

Gerzel Petallo led the Lady Tamaraws with 11 points including three aces. Florize Anne Papa contributed nine points in the last two sets, while Mitzi Panangin only played in the opening frame but scored seven.

FEU remained unbeaten in two games ahead of its duel against Ateneo next week but coach Manolo Refugia stressed the importance of solidifying the team’s bond.

“We’re happy with this good start in Shakey’s. The team played well even the second stringers executed the things we did in practice,” Refugia said. “But we need to improve our team chemistry and work on our lapses. We will be able to gauge ourselves this preseason going into the UAAP.”

NCAA champion College of Saint Benilde recovered from a first-set loss before taking down Letran, 20-25, 25-14, 25-18, 25-22, for a winning start in Pool C.

Gayle Pascual powered the Lady Blazers with 14 points including the game-winning tip. Jade Gentapa and Michelle Gamit contributed 13 points apiece, while Zamantha Nolasco added 11 including four blocks.

Two-time NCAA champion coach Jerry Yee wasn’t also pleased with their performance in their second SSL tournament this year, following an early quarterfinal exit in the National Invitationals at the hands of University of Perpetual Help.

“Our game was ugly. Either we’re tired or we underestimated our opponents or we’re too eager. Let’s see how the players will respond in the second and third game,” said Yee in Filipino as they brace for Pool C leader University of Santo Tomas (2-0) on Monday.

Gia Marcel Maquilang poured in 25 points for Letran only for new coach Oliver Almadro to remain winless in two games in Pool C.

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The Lady Knights try to stay in contention against the Perpetual Help Lady Altas (0-1) on Monday.

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